Clay Target League Coach Penny Slagle, right, addresses the Williston City Commission during Tuesday’s meeting.

Leaders of Williston’s Clay Target League are hoping to reach an agreement with the city about the gun range that the club uses.

Earlier this month, Clay Target League coach Penny Slagle contacted the city regarding the league’s location at the shooting range adjacent to the Municipal Golf Course. Slagle was simply confirming the club’s location in order to apply for a grant for new equipment, but the response she received from the city left her “devastated.”

In an email provided to the Williston Herald by Slagle, City Administrator David Tuan stated on Dec. 6:

“...the redevelopment plans for Sloulin Field will not accommodate a firing range since it is not a conforming use within City limits and has never been formally approved by the FAA or local government. With that said, we recognize the need for a trap shooting location to support the youth programs and would encourage you to collaborate with Painted Woods (Sporting Range) on an alternative location.”

Additionally, the letter asked for a commitment from Slagle on a timeline that the property would be vacated. Slagle stated that since the League began in 2018, it’s membership has gone from only 35 students to nearly 100, and that number will continue to climb, she added. If unable to use the property, not only will it negatively affect the member’s ability to practice, but could come at a significant cost, as well.

“If we do have to relocate, the cost of us relocating could be well over $50,000 to move,” Slagle explained. “We’ve been negotiating in case this does come about, but we have nothing approved as of yet if we have to relocate.”

Slagle and others decided to take their case before the Williston City Commission, and were added to the agenda for the Tuesday, Dec. 10 meeting with the hope that the city will make an allowance for the club to stay at its current location, or at least give sufficient time for the League to make arrangement for the move. Slagle stated that there is “no way” the League could move the range during the winter and still be ready to shoot by April.

“We ultimately want to stay where we’re at,” Slagle said. “It’s close to town, it’s close to the high school, and we’ll have approximately 120 students shooting this spring. So, I’m hoping that the city will allow us our spring season to continue to shoot, and then after our spring season ends and the airport is no longer involved and the FAA is no longer involved, we have the possibility of sitting down with the city and working something out to help us continue the gun range. Because if the gun range isn’t there, I don’t have a Clay Target League.”

At Tuesday’s meeting, more than 20 members of the league were in attendance, and Slagle presented the issue to the assembled commissioners.

“Our current location has been there since 1983,” Slagle explained to the commission. “It is ideal for our use. It’s basically out of the way for future development. I guess what we are asking, is just simply asking the commission to please consider leaving the range as it is and please not make any hasty decisions without taking into consideration our needs. We’re more than willing, as a Clay Target League and as a gun club, to sit down with you and discuss any options and to provide our next season’s 250 athletes a safe and supervised facility to pursue their dream of continuing with the Clay Target League.”

While no action was taken by the commissioners regarding the matter, Tuan said that there would be an ongoing conversation with Slagle and the league in order to come to an agreement that satisfies all parties.

“No determination has been made at this point to impact the club in any way,” he said. “We’re very supportive of the high school trap shooting activities and we really want them to be successful. We still have land use compatibility and the North Dakota Century Code, for example, forbids the discharge of firearms within city limits, so there’s that as well. We’re not saying that’s going to govern what we do in this case, without considering how we can help them maybe find another place to go. But we are willing to talk with them.”

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